CHAIN OF DESTINY - Excerpt

EXTRACT #4:

 

Blood ran in little rivulets down the slope, across rocks, and through the sod to form crimson pools. On a tree’s thick trunk, the print of a bloody hand could be vividly discerned, where a seriously wounded man had assisted himself up in an attempt to return to safety. Packed on the ground, bodies lay in various bloodied heaps, disassembled and mutilated in every style and manner imaginable.

 

Those still alive and able to carry on appeared dazed, faces caked and layered with blown-back black powder, brown dirt, green grass stains, and various

shades of blue. Those with wounds would have tinges of red mixed to complete the multi hued mask.

 

The men fired, their right arms weary and numb from the vertical work of ramming the shot home.  Their jaws were sore and teeth loose from biting and tearing the ends of the paper cartridges.  Rifles were so hot, the gunpowder began to frequently flash and smoke before it could be pressed into the chamber along with the ball.

 

The toll continued to rise as the red tongues of flame lashed out.  One Rebel, started to move forward then raised his right arm and fell on his chest where he continued to lie, face down.  From under his right side, around his waist, a bright crimson pool of blood began to well out, consolidating and collecting on the grass, creating a large red stain on nature’s carpet.  With his face in the moist, green grass, he breathed heavily, bending the blades of grass before his mouth with his breath, as he pitifully and painfully moaned. 

 

Two steps away, on his right, a comrade was flung backward, to land in a sitting position, his back up against a tree.  Extended from his throat was a slim ramrod, an unfletched arrow mistakenly left jammed in a Yankee’s rifle that quavered with each drawn out breath…until his last breath had been drawn.

 

Behind both of the fallen men, stood a comrade, a man whose soul had become so hardened and unsympathetic that he had become immune to any form of ordinary human emotions.  With each sound of impact on a human body, he seemed to relish and take joy in the slaughter calling out in a most indifferent voice “Goodbye Michael” and “Goodbye Peter” as each of the two comrades fell before him.

 

Though he’d been in combat before, Ames realized that what he’d previously experienced and endured paled in comparison to this butchery and wholesale slaughter.  Nearly as dazed as those about him, he walked among the rows of dead men, stopping at one soldier, no one in particular, who was lying in a forlorn heap on his back, staring with opened eyes at the sky. 

 

The dead man had been one of the lucky few who had marched into battle with shoes.  They were mud and dust encrusted, soles worn paper-thin.  The front edges where torn and holed, exposing his tattered socks and some of his toes.  His uniform was just as ragged and his fingers were entwined around the trigger and guard of his rifle.

 

Ames kneeled over the face of the fallen man, nearly mesmerized by the blueness reflected in the cadaver’s open eyes.  A slight breeze rustled and stoked the man’s beard.  His face was ashen.  Were his last thoughts relaxing…of chilled streams, invigorating fields, tranquil skies?  Or, where they of something else?  The heat and exhaustion of his march, the tightness and emptiness of his stomach, or of the terror, pain, and agony of his death?  Did he see Death as it took him?  Sadly, Ames knew that he would never have the answers to these questions.